The Los Angeles Lakers are squaring off against the Milwaukee Bucks with a depleted roster on Thursday night. Los Angeles made three trades at the deadline (that were met with immense praise) and did not have the usual number of players to suit up in the game.
After breaking the all-time scoring record on Tuesday, LeBron James did not play in this game, either. The Lakers truly are short-staffed for this primetime game, leaving many to accept that a blowout was underway.
That has not been the case in the first quarter and while LeBron is not playing, the star power is certainly on the court. Austin Reaves decided to step up with double-digit points in the first half, including a wicked crossover on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This is an undrafted rookie in his second season taking one of the best defenders in the league in isolation and snapping his ankles like it is a game at the local park. No big deal. It is not like Giannis is a former Defensive Player of the Year or anything (oh wait… he is).
Lakers fans desperately missed Austin Reaves.
Austin Reaves missed over a month of action with a hamstring injury and just recently returned to action for the Lake Show. He has quickly become a fan favorite in his two seasons with Los Angeles and clips like this show exactly why.
It is more than the must-see viral moments, though. Reaves is a legitimate NBA role player who is a positive asset on both sides of the court. With Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley now on different teams, Reaves is going to get plenty of opportunities to shine for Los Angeles.
This is naturally drawing comparisons to Alex Caruso, who was also an undrafted free agent who rose from irrelevance to being one of the most important players on the entire roster. In fact, Caruso and LeBron had the best two-man lineup net rating in the entire NBA during the 2019-20 season.
The Los Angeles Lakers traded Thomas Bryant at a premium price and fans can thank DeAndre Jordan for being such a bad backup in Denver.
And to no surprise, Reaves is seeing similar success this season. Reaves and Anthony Davis is the best two-man lineup for LA in terms of net rating with LeBron and Reaves checking in as the fifth-best combo.